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FERC Proposes Rule to Speed Up Solar Energy Grid Interconnection

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has proposed changes to a rule that will speed up the process and reduce the costs to interconnect smaller-sized solar power projects to the grid while maintaining system reliability and safety. The changes were necessary, the organization claims, because of market changes that were due to state renewable energy goals and policies.

In 2005, FERC issued Order No. 2006, which established national interconnection procedures for generation projects that are 20 MW or less in size and subject to FERC's wholesale jurisdiction. However, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) filed an interconnection rulemaking petition with FERC in February 2012, arguing that certain aspects of the order have become barriers to cost-effective and timely interconnections. Its proposal will allow solar projects that met certain technical screens to qualify for a "fast track" interconnection process. As a result, the amount of solar considered under the sped-up process is expected to as much as double.

The FERC's new Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposes four specific reforms:

  • Allow interconnection customers to request a pre-application report from transmission providers to help them better evaluate points of interconnection before submitting a final request.
  • Increase the current 2 MW threshold to 5 MW in order to participate in the Fast Track Process. Eligibility would also be based on individual system and resource characteristics.
  • Revise customer options meeting and supplemental review for projects that fail the Fast Track screens.
  • Give interconnection customers an opportunity to provide written comments on the upgrades necessary for the interconnection.

SEIA said the changes are welcome news in the solar power industry. "We applaud FERC for recognizing the challenges facing wholesale distributed generation development, which is one of the fastest-growing segments of the solar energy industry," said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA. "This important proposed rule has the potential to roughly double the amount of solar generation capacity eligible to be fast-tracked in the U.S."

Resch said he hopes the states will look at the proposal as a prototype for their own interconnection rules.

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